Nick Milligan boating tragedy: 'kill cord' key to investigation

May 7, 2013

Padstow harbourmaster urges all speedboating enthusiasts to make use of safety device

A BOATING device called the 'kill cord' now appears to be key to solving the tragic accident that left TV executive Nick Milligan and his eight-year-old daughter Emily dead.

Milligan, a co-founder of Channel 5, was killed on Sunday when he and his family fell overboard from their 25ft speedboat as they enjoyed the sunshine in Padstow, Cornwall.

As horrified holidaymakers looked on, the 300-horsepower Cobra boat careered out of control, killing Milligan and his daughter, and leaving his wife, Victoria, and four-year-old son with what police describe as "life-changing" injuries caused by the boat's propeller as it circled the water before being brought under control.

Two other children, Amber, 12, and Olivia,10, suffered less serious injuries.

According to the Daily Mail, photographs of the speedboat being taken away by coastguards showed the kill cord still in place, "apparently unused".  The kill cord is a device that the skipper of a speedboat wears round his wrist or leg. It cuts out the engine if the captain goes overboard - a 'dead man's handle' in effect.

Although Padstow harbourmaster Rob Atkinson refused to speculate on whether the kill cord was in use when the accident occurred, he did issue a passionate reminder to amateur sailors to take the utmost precaution before taking to the water.

"Please, please, please, when you have a boat fitted with a kill cord, make sure the kill cord is operating correctly," said Atkinson. "And make sure it is attached to you because if you go out of the boat, it will stop the engine and it will prevent tragedies like this happening."

The police have yet to comment publicly on whether Milligan was wearing the kill cord, saying only that the device remained a "key focus" of their investigation.

The Daily Telegraph carries an interview with Richard Falk, training manager and chief examiner at the Royal Yachting Association, who also emphasised the importance of the kill cord, but cautioned against jumping to conclusions.

"Until the investigation is complete it is a little bit difficult to say what the problem was, whether there was faulty equipment or whether there was a failure to attach the kill cord to the driver," said Falk.

What no one is in doubt about is that Milligan was a devoted family man and someone familiar with the area, having built a beach house in Trebetherick, on the other side of the Camel Estuary from Padstow.

The Evening Standard quotes a friend of the Milligans' saying: "I cannot imagine Nick doing anything less than his absolute best for the safety of his wife and children. It is such a tragedy what happened and the investigation will bring answers, but it cannot bring Nick and his daughter back."

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